Pioneer Stories

drawing of cabin and forest

Here you’ll find writings by and about the early Bentheimer pioneers. Generally speaking, these pioneers emigrated before 1900, but the stories of later emigrants can appear here, as well. By collecting these articles and publishing them together in one place, the Society  endeavors to preserve their experiences and make them available to historians, genealogists, and others who have an interest in the American Immigrant Story.

Photo of Albert Kraker's spoons: the end part used to carve into the wood is shaped like a sharp spoon.

Albert Kraker’s Spoons

In the winter of 1875–76, Albert Kraker worked for four months making wooden shoes. To do so, he needed specialized tools called “spoons” or drill knives to hollow out the inside of the shoe.

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Side view of a white church with steeple. This church was built in 1862.

Early Days Of Graafschap

Lambertus Scholten was born in Laketown Township to Bentheimer immigrants. His memoir adds more details to the story of the immigrants’ lives in the mid–1800s, and the early days of Graafschap, Michigan.

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Color photo of the MV Italia passenger ship in the 1950s. The Kortmann family traveled aboard this ship.

Albert Kortmann Family

Christa Brinker’s article includes Albert Kortmann’s detailed account of the family’s Atlantic crossing in January of 1954.

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Color photo of Nancy Chapel wearing a print blouse and red jacket

Nancy Chapel Memorial

Nancy Chapel (Nadia Chaplya; Nadija Tschaplja) was born on December 31, 1924 in a small hamlet in the northern part of the Ukraine. She lived in the Ukraine until she was 18 years old. As a child, she suffered much. Her life was full of hardship and horror. She experienced hunger, homelessness, and abuse.

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Allegan County Overisel Saugatuck

From Overisel to Saugatuck and Back

It must have been in the winter of 1849–50. The snow lay deep, the way still untrodden, when a five­–man group decided it was in their interest to visit their neighbors and to make a trip to Saugatuck—or rather, they were forced to do so.

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Bielefeld Genealogy colorized featured image

Bielefeld Genealogy

There was a little boy running in wooden shoes on a deck of the Steamship Friesland on 20 August 1892. This person was Albert Bielefeld, the 3 1/2–year–old son of Evert Bielefeld (32 years) and Ennegien Bielefeld born Schultink (35 years). This courageous little family left their home in Hoogstede–Bathorn, Kreis Bentheim, Germany, to come to America.

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